LAU Launches Two Online Master’s Degree Programs

The online Master of Science in Computer Science and the MBA in Global Business Administration will carry the same weight as their on-campus equivalents.

By Dana K. Haffar

The MBA in Global Business Administration online program will start in fall 2021 and the Master of Science in Computer Science in January 2022.

Innovation, expansion and wider accessibility to quality higher education have long been guiding principles at LAU. Now, with the shift to digital pedagogical delivery expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic, the university will be launching two online master’s degree programs, the MBA in Global Business Administration in fall 2021 and the Master of Science in Computer Science in January 2022.

As part of a larger strategic plan to extend LAU’s footprint beyond Lebanon and the region and export its programs and expertise, the initiative to deliver online is a significant step toward positioning the university in a higher education sector that is increasingly competitive, globalized and digitized.

“We have been preparing for this paradigm shift to a digital culture and post-digital institutional platform to ensure that we perpetuate LAU’s mission globally and beyond geographical boundaries,” said LAU President Michel E. Mawad. “Offering online master’s degrees is one of our most strategic decisions toward that goal.”

Although the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) has yet to recognize online degrees, LAU was able to launch the MS in Computer Science and the MBA in Global Business Administration based on its New York charter and accreditation by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), said Assistant Provost Barbar Akle.

“The university received an approval to start ‘distance education’ from NECHE based on a report on our preparations for online education, while we were able to register both degrees as 100 percent online at the New York State Education Department (NYSED),” he explained.

By virtue of a faculty with an international outlook, its institutional accreditation, and NYSED registration, LAU has been in a strong position to keep pace with technological advancements in the past few years. Well before it had to migrate courses online during COVID-19, the university had established the Center for Innovative Learning, dedicated to promoting excellence in teaching, learning and assessment through technologies and high-impact pedagogies.

Furthermore, the new online degrees are being implemented in partnership with Wiley, the globally known higher education publisher and consultancy.

“The center has played a major role in preparing the ground for starting online education,” said Dr. Akle, “and is currently collaborating closely with Wiley Education Services to support our faculty in developing strong online courses that deliver knowledge equivalent to that of the campus courses to an international learner base.”

The online MS in Computer Science, explained Professor and coordinator of the online degree Faisal Abu-Khzam, is project- (rather than thesis-) based with more emphasis on course work than on research and does not include purely theoretical classes. “Its unique feature,” he added, “is that it is designed to suit students coming from different computer science-related backgrounds. Very little technical background is expected from the students, yet the learning outcomes match those of our most advanced courses.”

In addition to its flexibility and customizable elective courses, the MBA in Global Business Administration offers students “a better understanding of Eastern and Western business culture,” said Associate Professor and coordinator of the program Abdul-Nasser Kassar. “Not only will they be taught by research-driven faculty with global experience but will also be able to interact with students and professionals from different countries and join our global network of alumni spread across the GCC, Europe, and the Americas – an experience that has been beneficial to our LAU graduates,” he added.

“Online delivery has opened countless possibilities to transcend geographical boundaries and make our programs, in their unique features, more accessible,” said Provost George E. Nasr. “Embracing change has always been our driving force, and we will seize every opportunity to evolve and remain in step with the new technological trends in education, regionally and globally.”

Both online programs are equivalent in standard, curricula, and end qualification as those offered on campus. The degrees issued on completion will be identical to campus degrees with no mention of them being “online” and graduates will be allowed to march at commencement.